In the world of the artist, and particularly in university settings, specialization and its unwelcome companion, isolation, are commonplace. In the pursuit of excellence in novel-writing, choreography, lithography, sculpture, music composition, and so on, the “bigger questions” about the creation of art, what art means to address and how, the role of the artist in society, and the process of art-making that go beyond technique and form, tend to be left out of the picture. The fact is that true success in artistic creation and performance requires the kind of breadth that this program addresses. If an artist rarely—or never—has a conversation, or shares work with, artists working in different fields, much of the potential of an individual artist may go unrealized; thinking can become stale, or circular; and many questions about the work itself will remain unasked.
Today it is considered unremarkable that much of the art produced in any discipline tends be accessible (and of interest) only to other artists in that field. That most poetry today is read only by poets, new music is listened to only by those who themselves compose or play it, visual art is paid attention to only by other visual artists (but further: painters pay attention to the work only of other painters, glassblowers to the work of glassblowers!)—that unless a dance concert is an old favorite, “The Nutcracker” hauled out yet again, the audience for it is in the main dancers (and dance critics!)—is sometimes lamented but otherwise unaddressed.
There is nothing revolutionary in the notion that a particular art practice is enriched by an understanding of other arts. Indeed, there was a time when it was unsurprising to find novelists who also painted, poets who composed music—and certainly it was unsurprising to find, in the “salons” of Europe, painters and composers and novelists talking to one another about their work, arguing about it, criticizing it, and influencing one another, as well as collaborating on new work. Given that “interdisciplinary” has become a buzzword for artists as well as scholars in the twenty-first century, it is particularly astonishing that such truly multidisciplinary communities are rare, out in the “real world” outside the Academy as well as within the borders of our universities.
One of the few exceptions to the rule of artistic isolation within a specialty occurs regularly at artists’ colonies such as the venerable Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. At the American Academy in Rome, and at Bellagio on Lake Como, the idea of community and influence across boundaries is even farther explored, when artists of all stripes work alongside scholars and critics across a wide range of disciplines. Within universities, there a few programs that encourage or concentrate on interdisciplinarity among artists; thus, the GISFA program at OSU is unusual in both its intention and design. It has been designed to be flexible enough to accommodate a variety of student needs—from those who are extremely theoretical in their approach to those who are more “hands-on” and intuitive, and from those who already are practicing other arts (e.g., an M.F.A. student in creative writing who composes music and already has a significant background in music—perhaps an undergraduate degree or a music performance career in her background; a painter who also writes poetry and has a background in theater, long-unused; a composer who is interested in writing operas and has a background in creative writing; a choreographer who is beginning to introduce verbal narrative to his dances, and wants more formal training in the discipline) to those who believe that an understanding of the practice and process of other arts will enrich their own work in a subtler, less direct way (a glass sculptor who simply wants to learn more about music, theater, writing and/or movement, or a writer who wants to explore characterization through acting classes and/or portrait photography). Beyond the program’s core course, Arts & Sci College 6750, students will be able to explore the practice of arts outside their own discipline or a combination of arts practice and criticism, arts practice and the psychology of creativity and the philosophy of aesthetics, or folklore as it relates to the practice of art (and so on); the possibilities—and combinations—given the resources we have at our disposal at OSU, are nearly endless.
The ultimate goal of the GISFA program is to allow—and indeed encourage—the artists who choose to pursue their graduate education at the Ohio State University, and who are accomplished enough to gain admission to one of our competitive arts programs, the opportunity to enlarge the scope of their vision and complicate the art they produce, and to enrich and deepen their education in art beyond a single area of specialty. Students who choose this option will be uniquely equipped to create art that embraces a wider field of vision, and that “speaks” to a wider audience. Graduate school is usually thought of as a time for narrowing of focus, for jettisoning other interests and pursuits, but an artist who has begun early in his or her career to think, and create, outside the confines of a specialization, is in a far better position to make art that communicates, and serves, the culture and society of our time—and of times to come. Indeed, true success in artistic creation and performance requires breadth, and depth, in matters that go beyond the demands of any individual arts discipline.
from a collaboration (comic book) between Lauri Lynnxe Murphy (Art) and Raymond Fleischmann (Creative Writing)from a collaboration (book) between Zach Podgorny (Art), Thai Thao (Creative Writing, also photography), and Elizabeth Ansfield (Creative Writing)